Insects and birdsong livened up Sisters High School last week. Was the high school installing a zoo? No: it was a performance by Sisters Elementary School students.

“The music teacher at SES, Sara Miller, has done a phenomenal job this year not only teaching music theory but also providing all students with performance opportunities,” said Joan Warburg, principal of Sisters Elementary School.

Miller directed a double bill nicknamed “Bugs and Birds” in the high school auditorium last week. Six classrooms participated, resulting in a large and impressive cast for each show.

First-graders performed “Bugz!” by John Jacobson, described as “a musical play for young voices.” Audiences heard from ladybugs, ants, and even some very amusing maggots as they planned their raid on a picnic.

“Wing It!” was the second-graders’ show, also written by Jacobson. An aviary of owls, geese, parrots and more explored the challenges of taking risks and learning to fly. Singing and flapping filled the stage. So did one hip-hop number, as the kids got down for “Rap of the Raptors,” to much applause.

Students wore black clothes, then added colorful construction paper hats and other costume items. Unlike in a full theatrical production, in this show students stood or sat on risers. There they sang together in well-rehearsed and well-behaved harmony.

They also gathered downstage in small groups to take turns reciting lines into a microphone. This gave many children the chance to learn at least one line of dialog, dress as a character, and try a bit of acting for their community, without the complications of a full production with blocking and sets.

Performing at their own school is exciting for many SES students. The high school’s high-quality sound system, theatrical lighting, and ample auditorium added to the thrill of performance.

On the Oregon Educators site at Medium.com, Miller recently wrote: “I have been a music teacher for five years now, after raising my five children at home for 14 years. I am lucky to work in a school that has a very supportive administrator.”

Miller observed that research shows “students learn best when they have regular and robust access to music, art, PE, language, plenty of recess/play time and a chance to just be kids…These subjects matter deeply to developing the whole child. Music, art and PE should not be considered luxuries in education.”

Warburg praised Miller for giving time outside of school hours to offer students performance opportunities. She appreciated Miller’s understanding that music performances, not just theory and rehearsing, help students fall in love with music.

“In the fall she orchestrated our Veterans Day celebration and our Winter Holiday extravaganza,” said Warburg, noting that all students in grades kindergarten through fourth grade participated. Third-graders joined Sisters High Desert Chorale’s Christmas performance.

Fourth- and fifth-graders gained a new opportunity to sing together and perform this year as well. “Thanks to the generous support of Sisters Folk Festival, [Miller] directed the Sisters Outlaws Singers as they joined other student choirs across Central Oregon at a choir festival in March, and performed throughout Sisters this spring in a variety of venues,” said Warburg.

“It has been a joy to hear from our community about how much they have appreciated and enjoyed our students’ performances,” Warburg said. “Sara has an extraordinary gift of bringing the best out of her students musically, and it is a thrill to listen to our students perform so beautifully.”